Dallas Harlequins’ new women’s team is kicking ass … while behaving like ladies
Molly Whitman’s love story begins, as all great love stories do, with a cleat to the face.
It was the first semester of her first year at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., and Whitman decided to try out for the women’s rugby team, and quickly fell head over heels over face over bum for the sport. It was a bold decision in many ways; rugby isn’t as well know in the U.S. as it is internationally, and certainly the sport — which proudly embraces anthems like “no blood no foul,” “organized violence” and “no opponents, only victims” — isn’t among the more ladylike endeavors.
Then again, you probably haven’t met too many ladies like Whitman.
A law student with a passion for bloodsport, Whitman is petite and pretty, with a disarming smile and a girlish countenance. At least, until she puts on her uniform and grabs a ball.
That’s when she means business.
“It’s definitely a bold, fast-paced game,” she says. “We like to say football is for pussies, though I’m sure no one in Dallas wants to hear me say that.”
Whitman’s love of the game developed throughout her college career. She spent one year abroad studying in France, where she also joined a French league. She calls the experience eye-opening.
“[Women’s rugby] felt so much more legit there,” she says. “The team I played on was the No. 1 women’s team in France at the time. We traveled around, and it let me see what rugby could be.”
After college, she continued to play on club teams. Rugby is also how she began her second love affair.
She met her girlfriend, Sarah Hoffman, after Hoffman started playing for the Holy Cross team right as Whitman graduated. “You could say we played for the same team,” Whitman laughs. “We hung out with the same folks so I eventually asked her out.“ Since Hoffman was originally from Dallas, they moved here about two years ago when Whitman enrolled at SMU’s law school.
Almost as quickly, Whitman signed up to play on the women’s side of the gay Dallas Diablos … until last May. That’s when she decided she wanted to take women’s rugby in Dallas to a more competitive level.
Technically, Whitman is co-captain (with Esther King) of the women’s division of the Dallas Harlequins Rugby Football Club, but around the pitch, they are just known as The Lady Quins.
It’s a major advance for women’s rugby in the area. Whitman’s team is affiliated with the Dallas Harlequins, a storied Dallas men’s team that has been one of the leading rugby teams in the nation since forming in 1971. But in that time, the Harlequins have never had a women’s side.
“I called them up and they said they’d always wanted a women’s club but didn’t know how to go about starting it,” Whitman recalls. So she took it upon herself to begin recruitment.
The resulting Lady Quins is a new team (not even six months old) and a young one (many of the players have never competed in rugby before), but Whitman is already very active in the community. They informally introduced themselves to Dallas when they marched in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade during Dallas Pride. Although the Quins are not specifically a gay team, they have many lesbian members, and women of all backgrounds, ages, creeds, colors and orientations are welcome.
“I had never played team sports before, so it seemed like a neat personal challenge,” says Alicia Chang, a newcomer to the game. “I had the idea it would be a positive — and humbling — experience. And rugby is particularly appealing because it’s quirky.
“We have about 15 players attend [twice-weekly] practices,” Whitman says. “We’re in the middle of our fall season, and we plan to grow.” Her goal, she says, is to within five years compete at the level of the Austin Valkyries, one of the most competitive women’s teams in the U.S. And that means generating interest from women looking to, as their motto goes, “act like a lady, play like a Quin.”
“One of the great things about rugby is, in this country we didn’t grow up watching it on TV and playing it in gym class, so there aren’t any expectations,” she says. “No experience is necessary — we are constantly seeking new players. All we require is enthusiasm. Another thing that’s awesome about rugby is how you kick the shit out of the opposing team [on the pitch], and when it’s over you share a beer with them and sing rugby songs,” says Whitman.Sounds like rugby is the perfect sport for an aspiring lawyer.
New members always welcome. Practices are at Glencoe Park on Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information, visit Quins.com and look the for the women’s team link.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 2, 2012.